Thriving in the influencer economy

Independent Scholars
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SUMMARY: Jaeda Skye Cohen, Class of 2024, is brewing success as an entrepreneur and content creator

Creativity and persuasion are central to the influencer economy today, which emphasizes the independence of content creators using digital communication technology and social media platforms. Influencers must quickly grab the audience’s attention using a hook and build trust through familiarity. In essence, it’s about developing the unique attention to detail that content creation brings — a way to find excitement and positivity in everyday moments.  

Jaeda Cohen’s journey as a content creator and social media entrepreneur began in high school. “I’ve always loved coffee and the coffee shop atmosphere,” she says, “and so I had the idea of creating coffee shop content.” She got her first positive response to making content by a Baltimore coffee shop called Morning Mugs. “The owner was so kind and welcoming, and interested in what I was doing. So that’s kind of where it started.” Initially, the coffee shops compensated her with complimentary coffee. 

Her experience with content creation fueled Cohen’s desire to become an entrepreneur. In her freshman year, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, she found solace in the campus Starbucks truck conveniently stationed outside her residence hall. “My penchant for trying new coffee drinks inspired a daily TikTok series that I called ‘Starbs of the Day.’” The series gained the attention of Starbucks, which featured one of her videos on their TikTok account. It was an eye-opening moment that hinted at additional demand for such content. 

Over time, Cohen expanded her reach, forming partnerships and providing consulting services to fashion houses, media agencies, spas, and salons. “The beauty of it was being able to accomplish multiple goals simultaneously,” she says. “When a clothing brand approached me for promotion and collaboration, I could effortlessly integrate their items into my content while enjoying a cup of coffee.” Many coffee shops lack the resources or Gen Z-savvy to produce engaging content, so her role often involves striking a balance between social media promotion and content creation, and growing and using her influencer status. 

Jaeda drew valuable lessons — which contributed to her success as an entrepreneur, branding expert, and content creator — from her involvement in competitive jump rope. “I’ve been involved in competitive jump rope since second grade. It takes considerable effort. It’s a unique and unconventional sport, and so I faced bullying by classmates. Those experiences significantly contributed to my current confidence.” 

Throughout college, Cohen continues to expand her influence. She is venturing into consulting for businesses and brands and helping to shape their strategies. “I initially pursued kinesiology and health science at JMU, with the lifelong goal of attending PT school,” she recalls. “However, I found myself merely coasting along. I got excited during my collaborations with coffee shops.” During a summer stint at True Sports, a sports-focused physical therapy chain in the DMV area, she shifted roles. “Instead of traditional PT work, I became their content creator, collaborating with the media agency to produce content for high-profile athletes, including Ravens players and minor league athletes,” she says. She became an Independent Scholars major in order to design her own major while pursuing additional minors in Pre-Physical Therapy, Business, and British Communication and Media. 

“I’m someone who enjoys viewing the world through a different lens. It’s like having a permanently ‘zoomed-in’ perspective on life. I’m always on the lookout for content opportunities.” Cohen explains that influencers develop a unique perspective on life. “Influencing becomes your world,” she says. “The work seeps into all of the gaps in time between other things. I can’t just sit in a coffee shop and enjoy myself anymore.” There is a trend in content creation called ‘romanticizing.’ “It’s about shifting your perspective and making something positive out of what might seem ordinary or gloomy, Cohen says. “Mundane activities become thrilling experiences.” 

Cohen is often asked how she maintains her motivation and stays committed to her goals. “The key is to imagine that there’s a camera crew ready to film your entire day,” she says. “Creating this fictional reality where everything you do is going to be recorded can transform the way you approach your tasks.” Cohen suggests making a ‘Day in Your Life’ video by recording every personal activity throughout the day and pretending that it will eventually be shared with your future self. “It’s a powerful motivator. When I created my own ‘Day in the Life’ video, I found that I naturally accomplished more. It’s a mindset shift that turns routine tasks into exciting opportunities to showcase your best self.” 

Cohen recently began working with JMU Athletics, where she films practice games to create hype videos and content for the video board during games. “My passion for content creation keeps me motivated and eager to do more,” she says. “Each time I receive PR or engage in a new project, I’m just as excited as the first time.” She is also working with Warner Brothers Entertainment to create content related to Central Perk, the iconic coffee shop from the beloved TV show “Friends.”  

She is sharing her considerable talents with JMU’s Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship. The center helps students pursuing any major across campus connect their vision for a business or nonprofit venture with the steps necessary to bring it to life. Cohen recently hosted a workshop on social media and content creation in the Gilliam Center. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer for a digital social media advertising class and an attention economy class, where she shared her day-to-say experiences being a content creator, influencer, and social media entrepreneur while balancing the demands of being a full-time student. Cohen is president of the Student Entrepreneurship Ambassadors and Media Chair for the Society for Entrepreneurs (SOE). 

Cohen explains that social media entrepreneurs wield significant influence over their audience’s attention and decision-making. Utilizing this influence responsibly, being conscious of the impact on your audience’s choices, and staying authentic are pivotal in building a trustworthy and engaged audience. “It’s a delicate balance to strike, as the desire to capture moments competes with the need to engage genuinely in a professional setting,” she says.  

People buy products she showcases because they like and trust her. “I am ultimately selling myself,” Cohen says. “I reflect on this often because it’s a genuinely important aspect. The accuracy of your representation largely depends on the nature of your content. For instance, if you’re a skincare influencer, maintaining transparency about the products you use becomes crucial. If someone knows you for having clear skin, it’s essential to avoid creating a false perception. There’s a delicate balance between trying out products, offering your opinion, and ensuring authenticity.” 

Content creation and influencing has injected purpose into Jaeda Cohen’s life. Next semester, Cohen is excited to continue her work as a content creator, videographer and social media entrepreneur for JMU Athletics. She is now exploring different avenues, like starting her own media or content agency or a pivoting to a different industry after graduation, to keep the excitement alive.  


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Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2024

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